The Gray Blue Jays Cap

Gray Blue Jays Cap

For some reason, I seem to have a soft spot for any Blue Jays apparel. Second to only my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, I have more Blue Jays caps than anything else. However, this is my first cap of the blue and silver logo used from 2004-2011. Specifically, this gray cap was worn exclusively from 2004 to 2005, before being replaced with a more traditional black cap with a silver “T” (pictured below). Some great Blue Jays players had the honor of wearing this elusive cap, including All-Stars Ted Lilly, Carlos Delgado and Shea Hillenbrand, as well as two-time Gold Glove Vernon Wells.* But to me, this cap was worn by arguably the greatest pitcher in Blue Jays’ history: Roy “Doc” Halladay.

Roy Halladay

I can’t imagine there will ever be a point in my life when the Blue Jays are not synonymous with Roy Halladay. In his 11 year career with the team, he was a six-time All-Star, a Cy Young winner, and an AL Wins Champion. He also has numerous team records, highlighted by the most wins in a season with 22 during 2003. I remember visiting Toronto as a kid (which you can read more about here), and in a city where baseball takes a backseat to hockey, Roy Halladay still managed to be a hero. Whenever he was pitching, attendance at the Rodger Center soared. His jersey was among the top selling for most of his tenure, which is impressive for a smaller market team such as Toronto. But for all of his accomplishments with the team there were two things that alluded him: a no hitter and postseason play.

Roy Halladay

In 2010, Halladay was traded to my beloved Philadelphia Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor, and agreed to a 3 year contract extension with a fourth year vesting option. With the addition of Roy Halladay, the Phillies were supposed to have the last piece of their puzzle to win the World Series for the second time in three years. Even though Cliff Lee was fantastic for for the Phillies in 2009 (winning both of his starts in the World Series), Halladay was seen as an upgrade due to his “potential future Hall of Famer” status, and Lee was traded to the Mariners the same day.

In my lifetime, I cannot remember a pitcher as dominant as Halladay was in 2010. Granted, being a Phillies fan I am at least a little biased, but the stats do not lie. I don’t remember then-Phillies pitcher Kevin Millwood’s no hitter back in 2003, so when Halladay threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins it was a miracle. He was everything we as a fanbase expected him to be and more. He even gave us the endless shirts with “Doc-tober” emblazoned upon them.

By this time, Halladay had the Cy Young locked up with 21 wins, but Doc still had something special left to show us. On October 6, 2010, in his very first postseason appearance, Halladay pitched the second postseason no hitter of all time against the Cincinnati Reds. It was truly icing on the cake to one of the best seasons by any pitcher of all time.** Despite finishing the postseason with 2 wins and 2.45 ERA, Halladay and the Phillies sadly fell short of their World Series aspirations. His 2011 season was almost equally impressive with an even lower ERA of 2.35, and finished second in the Cy Young voting behind Clayton Kershaw.

But injuries cut Halladay’s career short, and he has since retired a Blue Jay. Tragically, he never got his World Series that he truly deserved. There is much more to say about his last two injury plagued seasons with the Phillies, and the debate of whether he is a Hall of Famer is something that deserves its own article(and will get it), but for now I just want to remember Doc as the greatest pitcher throughout my childhood and for one of my favorite quotes in baseball when referring to his first ever playoff appearance.

I came here to bury Caesar, not praise him

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Benjamin Christensen, who out of the pure kindness of his heart sent me this cap, knowing I had been looking for it for quite some time. It seemed the basically the entirety of the Internet was sold out; I couldn’t even find one on eBay willing to pay just about any price. When I asked Ben if he knew anywhere I could find one, and much to my surprise he told me exactly where I could find it, knowing for a fact he had one in my size sitting in his mother’s closet all the way back in Portland. To me, Ben is a king on the internet, specializing in all things baseball, beards and New Era Cap related, and his opinion is second to none on the subjects, even participating in the MLB Fan Cave as a representative of the Oakland A’s. He has all my thanks, for without him this article would not be possible. I highly recommend both following him on twitter (@Shakabrodie) as well as reading his blog (www.hatsandtats.blogspot.com). This cap meant a lot to me buddy, and I cannot thank you enough.

*These individual player awards only account for the two seasons this cap was worn.
**In my humble opinion.

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The Hillsboro Hops Cap

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Whenever a new team enters any league, goes through a total re-branding, or moves it is almost a certainty that I will get that cap. The Hillsboro Hops are no exception, moving from Yakima, Washington to Hillsboro Oregon in time for the 2013 season. A Short-Season A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Hops are the only professional baseball team in the Portland metropolitan area, and try to reflect the community they represent. They are so named after the Hops which are commonly used in the beer-making process, which Oregon is known for. According to my friend who used to live in the state, about 1/3 of all beer produced in the United States can be traced back to Oregon. Even their mascot Barley’s name was chosen from a contest in the local community.

As far as non-baseball awards go, the Hops won just about every one they could. The Hops’ branding and logo was named the best in all of Minor League Baseball for 2013 by Ballpark Digest; that is out of 243 possible teams. The odds of wining that award are .413223%. Even their beloved mascot Barley was named the winner of the Northwest League “Mascot Mania” contest. They played their first ever home game in front of a sold out crowd of 4710 at Hillsboro Ballpark, and the fans continued to come. They even lead their league in attendance, giving the Portland area a team of their own.

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Barley, the official mascot of the Hillsboro Hops

Since 2013 was their inaugural season as the Hops, no one of note has passed through the system as of yet, but that doesn’t mean the franchise hasn’t had its fair share of notable alumni in the pre-Hillsboro era. Back when they were a Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate, many future All-Stars played for the then named Yakima Bears, including Paul Konerko, Shane Victorino and Carlos González, who have all had outstanding careers at the major league level.

Time will tell whether any current Hops players will reach any success at the Major League level, but former Hops closer Daniel Gibson is currently ranked 20th on the Diamonabacks Top 20 Prospect List, with an ETA to the Majors put at 2015. One of four Hops players to be named to the Northwest League All-Star Game, Gibson posted a 0.56 ERA through 16 innings of work. I, along with many Hops fans, hope to see this guy make it to the big leagues, giving them the first MLB player they can call their own alumni.

Sadly, their inaugural season was filled with mediocrity on the field. Their team batting average was .238, while they hit only 29 home runs in 78 games. The nature of Short-Season A means that most if not all players will be new to the team, allowing for a potentially quick turnaround for the infant franchise. I wear this cap proudly, supporting a franchise that is filled with potential and has the community willing to embrace it.

The Tampa Bay Rays Cap

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I am forever indebted to the Tampa Bay Rays; they were the ones who lost to my beloved Phillies in the 2008 World Series. I couldn’t be more thankful to them for losing and allowing me to have the experience that every sports fan dreams of: a championship. Of all the caps I own, this is the only one that I have signed by none other than the Tampa Bay Rays’ very own David DeJesus.

Oakland Athletics right fielder David DeJesus (12)

David DeJesus first came to my attention as player as a member of the the Cubs when I needed a fourth outfielder for my fantasy baseball team. DeJesus isn’t the type of player a casual fan would know; in his ten year career, he has never been an All-Star, or won a Golden Glove, Silver Slugger or any of the major awards. It was for a two week period That being said, he has been as solid an outfielder as you could ask, with a very solid career .279 batting average.

Spending 10 years with the Kansas City Royals, he batted about .300 twice before being traded to the Oakland Athletics for the 2011 season for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. After a lackluster year with the A’s, DeJesus signed a two year deal, $10 million with the Chicago Cubs to be their starting right fielder, preforming admirably in the process.

Midway through the 2013 season, DeJesus was the subject of consistent trade rumors. Fearing division rival Atlanta Braves would trade for him and push them further out of the NL East race, the Washington Nationals traded for him for a player to be named later. They truly had no need for him; it was only a ploy to keep him out of the Braves’ hands. After just three games played, and no hits, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays who were trying to lock up a wildcard spot. After beating Cleveland in the wild-card play in game, and a defeat in the ALDS to the Red Sox, the Rays signed him to a two-year $10.5 million contract.

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Me and David DeJesus

Seton Hall’s archenemy is instate rival Rutgers. The basketball game between them, terribly named the “Turnpike Tussle” is a huge deal for the fans and students of both the schools. Originally taking place twice a season when they were both part of the original Big East conference, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are playing on season in the American Athletic Conference before leaving for the Big 10 and the game is now only once a season, alternating home locations. Being the two largest basketball programs in the entire state of New Jersey, they are often fighting for recruits, only intensifying the rivalry. Last year Seton Hall was swept for the first time in years, so the players, fans and student body all had a chip on their shoulder.

This year I had the pleasure of going to the Rutgers Athletic Center to see the first “Turnpike Tussle” of my college career. Just want to take a moment to give a big thanks goes to my friend Anne, who was able to get us an extra ticket to the game so Sean was able to go. A day before the game, we learned that New Jersey native and Rutgers legend David DeJesus, who played at the school for three seasons, setting several school records (some of which were latter broken by Rutgers-turned-Reds’ outfielder Todd Frazier), would have a free autograph signing before the game. As much as a hate for Rutgers was instilled in me by Seton Hall’s orientation videos, I still love the game of baseball and was very excited to get something signed. Since I lacked a baseball in my dorm that I would be able to get signed, I figured a New Era Cap would be the next best thing. He was legitimately one of the nicest athletes I have ever meet; even took time to talk some football as my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat his Buffalo Bills that week. He was incredibly kind to keep everyone who came up to his table, taking time to personally ask for everyones name in line, and didn’t take a cent from anyone. Staff even handed out pictures from his games at Rutgers for him to sign. Couldn’t be a nicer guy.

After getting him to sign my hat, some of the Rutgers pictures (one for me and one for my friend Harry), taking a picture with him, I was treated to an amazing basketball game that I will never forget. The Seton Hall Pirates won 77-71 in what was an instant classic, and I even got to see my oldest childhood friend Carlos, who happens to go to Rutgers; even though we supported different sides, it is always great seeing him. I left the building with a great memory of a fantastic night, and a signed cap to remember it. This is one cap I will not wear again, instead having it proudly displayed and consistently appreciated.